This past Sunday, June 23rd marked the fourth summer in a row that Dead and Company have performed at the home of The New York Mets- Citi Field. In 2016, John Mayer shined for a pair of shows that truly highlighted his love of the music and the effect it’s had on his resurrection. 2017’s Citi show wasn’t quite as good but still a lot of fun. Last summer’s performances were really strong, especially the second one. This summer’s tour has been all about defying expectations, especially with the setlists. Bob Weir always talked about how he envisioned a Grateful Dead that didn’t include him. In his recent GQ profile, he clearly appreciates and understands his role in what’s he’s created. His daughter’s joked about his jean shorts, and Monet received a “Slayer” style John Mayer shirt in the lot this tour that Bobby later wore on stage. On Saturday night (6/22) in Foxboro, Mayer returned the favor by wearing Bobby’s Madonna “Truth or Dare” shirt from Summer ’87.
But it hasn’t all been about Deadhead easter eggs, the shows themselves have been getting stronger. What could they bring to Queens that the crowd hadn’t seen before? It turns out quite a bit. Photographer Jay Blakesburg had approached Mayer about playing Jerry’s famed Doug Irwin “Wolf” guitar as early as 2017. Mayer, whose annual night-before-tour posts reveal how much he really gets and respects what he’s been asked to do, told Blakesburg he felt he hadn’t yet earned the right.
Of course, none of this was known by any on the “outside” before Sunday. However, this reviewer was as shocked as anyone when Mayer came out holding it as the band opened with “St. Stephen.” Unlike last summer, the band didn’t attempt the “William Tell Bridge” or “The Eleven,” but no one cared. It was really hard to not focus on the fact that Mayer was playing Wolf. Every song on his night had at least one “liftoff” moment and the guitar, even with new strings, made it seem that much more special.
Sure there were rocky moments. “Cold Rain & Snow” wasn’t quite as cohesive as it was at Citi a year ago. “Samson & Delilah” began with Bobby tentatively shaking a tambourine. All of Weir’s workout videos have clearly paid off since his biceps were bugling out of his D’Angelico Guitars shirt. In some ways, the band is more about the magic between the “Company” more than the “Dead.” As Jerry often did with Brent, Mayer locks in with his keyboardist. Jeff Chimenti added some fantastic solos on “They Love Each Other,” and “Sugaree.” Not be outdone, Oteil Burbridge added his vocals to “High Time” and held down the bottom end.
“Terrapin Station” was a great way to start the second set, especially since Bobby’s first vocals are the “Inspiration move me brightly” part. Mayer had some great swirling leads before that, along with Chimenti’s tinkling. “Althea” was the first song that made Bobby think that playing with Mayer could work and this version showed why. It was impossible not to feel the pure joy Mayer displayed while playing this song. The transition between “Scarlet Begonias” and “Fire On The Mountain” was some of the best playing of the night. Unfortunately, the amps blew during the last verse of “Fire” and it took a little while for the band to figure it out. After the crowd joyously took over the chorus, the band let the drummers take over.
“The Wheel” emerged out of “Space” and gave way to “The Other One.” After Oteil’s bass intro opened a fiery version, it seemed there was only one song fit to be the closer. “Morning Dew” it was and Mayer’s final solo really delivered the goods. Rather than take leave before an encore, Bobby strapped on his acoustic guitar for “Brokedown Palace.” There was no formal mention of Jerry’s guitar other than its featured appearance on the video screen. However, Jay Blakesburg revealed that Mayer’s second biggest concern was whether Deadheads would like it. If his social media posts and interviews hadn’t already convinced you, this proves how reverential he is about this music. I can confirm that Deadheads were more than okay with it. Thanks again, Johnny.